Salty’s slam sends Sox surging to 90th victory

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Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a seventh-inning grand slam against Yankees reliever Preston Claiborne to break a 4-4 tie. The blast, which came on an 0-1, 92 MPH fastball, cleared the fence in right field at Fenway Park with plenty of room to spare.

The Yankees, despite massive bullpen issues, had won their last three and entered tonight just one game behind the second Wild Card in the American League. Starter Hiroki Kuroda allowed four first-inning runs to the Red Sox, but the Yankees fought back, scoring once in the second, once in the sixth, and twice in the seventh to tie the game at four apiece.

Kuroda took the mound for the seventh, but was quickly removed after allowing a lead-off single to Shane Victorino. Manager Joe Girardi brought in lefty Cesar Cabral to face David Ortiz with the platoon advantage, but Cabral hit Ortiz to put runners on first and second with no outs. Sox manager John Farrell pinch-hit Jonny Gomes for Mike Carp, prompting Girardi to call on Claiborne. Claiborne walked Gomes to load the bases, then rebounded and struck out Daniel Nava to give himself some light at the end of the tunnel as Saltalamacchia came to the plate. Charged with two of the four runs on the grand slam, this marks the third consecutive appearance in which Claiborne has allowed multiple runs. He allowed three runs on September 5 and 6, also against the Red Sox.

For the Sox, starter John Lackey allowed four runs in six and one-third innings. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara each tossed perfect innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively, to close out the 8-4 victory. They improve to 90-59, becoming the first team this season to reach the 90 plateau. They temporarily extend their first-place lead in the AL East to nine games over the Rays. The Yankees drop to 79-69, 1.5 games behind the Rays for the second AL Wild Card, pending the result of their game against the Twins.

Yasmani Grandal signs a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox

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The first truly big free agent signing of the offseason has gone down: the Chicago White Sox just announced that they have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal.

Grandal, 31, was the best catcher available in free agency. He is coming off a fine year with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he had to settle for a one-year pact in 2019. He hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers and 77 driven in. It was his fourth straight season with 20+ homers. While his catching has been criticized due to some high-profile mistakes in the postseason, the two-time All-Star once again proved himself to be one of the best pitch-framers in the game if not the best. Between the bat and the glove he has a claim to being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.

The signing leaves open the question of what happens to James McCann, who was himself an All-Star this year. It’s not that hard a question, of course, as Grandal is a far superior catcher to McCann in every respect. The Sox could make McCann a backup. Alternatively, they could try to trade him to fill other holes on the roster.

The White Sox finished 72-89 in 2019 but are showing signs of coming out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. This signing pushes them a big step into that direction.